SALT LAKE CITY (CN) - An adoption agency coached birth mothers how to "use the fraud immunity act for their own financial gain" and pocketed fees without delivering babies, leaving a married couple "deceived" and "devastated" after three failed placements, the couple claim in court.
Suneet and Martha Agarwal sued Heart and Soul Adoptions, its executive director Denise Garza, and its employee Rachel Patten, a licensed clinical social worker, in Federal Court.
"This is a case of a corporation with a corrupt, illegal, and unethical business model preying upon the vulnerabilities and frustrations of prospective adoptive parents who wish to adopt children into their families," the lawsuit states. "Defendants engage in a process of unethical and even criminal enticements and promises to potential birth mothers, all the while informing them that they don't really have to place their child for adoption, and that they can even make misrepresentations regarding birth father status and other matters, and their lies are shielded by Utah's fraud immunity statute."
The complaint adds: "In addition, defendants in this case deliberately withheld material information from plaintiffs about the health of one child with whom plaintiffs had been matched - claiming the child and the birth mother were healthy when in fact they were not, including birth mother (in fact having) and baby (possibly having) hepatitis C, birth mother's drug use, and the baby's withdrawal and health complications (including extended stay hospital neo-natal intensive care unit) from such drug use. As a direct and proximate result of defendants' actionable conduct, Plaintiffs have incurred injuries and damages that are extensive and outlined more fully below, including: substantial economic losses, severe mental and emotional distress, physical pain and suffering; attorney fees; costs of litigation; unfair and unethical adoption agency fees; travel and lodging expenses; punitive or exemplary damages; and other injuries and damages that will be further presented at the time of a trial of this matter. As a result of defendants' reprehensible and illegal conduct, plaintiffs have incurred extensive damages in a total sum that will be determined at the time of trial, but which shall in no way be less than $10,000,000."
The Agarwals say they adopted their first child, A.A., through HSA in 2009.
They "re-engaged" the agency a year later and were matched with a new birth mother, Brianne. However, "In March 2011, the week before plaintiffs were to travel to Utah for delivery of Brianne's child, plaintiffs learned of medical issues with the baby. The birth mother became unresponsive which forced plaintiffs to back out of the adoption the weekend before their scheduled travel to Utah," according to the complaint.
The Agarwals say HSA charged them $4,400 for Brianne's baby, which was to be rolled into another adoption.
In 2013, they were matched with another birth mother - Kristina - who allegedly had been ordered by a court to place her child for adoption or face "further legal troubles."
Though Kristina traveled to Utah and was in HSA housing, she unexpectedly left town by bus, the Agarwals say, leaving them again without child.
The Agarwals say they paid $19,958.80 for Kristina's child, which was rolled into another prospective adoption with a new mother, Amanda.
Though HSA assured the Agarwals that Amanda was healthy, she tested positive for hepatitis C, the complaint states.
For its own "financial gain," the Agarwals claim, HSA coaches "birth mothers on how to express an interest in placing their child(ren) for adoption, for their financial gain, and the financial gain of HSA, when in reality they have no real interest or intention of actually placing their child(ren) for adoption, because they can simply just 'change their mind' and decide to parent the child(ren) - resulting in a large number of 'failed' adoptive placements." (Parentheses in complaint.)
HSA extended no sympathy or sorrow for the failed adoptions, the Agarwals say, until recently.
"Up until April 22, 2014, no one at HSA had made any effort to contact plaintiffs to see how they were doing; and not one person offered any sort of apology, sympathy, or sorrow about what happened, nor did anyone take any responsibility," the complaint states.
"These factors, in and of themselves were devastating to plaintiffs, and re-emphasized that HSA was focused on getting paid instead of making sure that plaintiffs received the services and care for which they had paid."
The Agarwals say HSA has refunded $26,395 of their costs.
They seek $10 million in damages for RICO violations, fraud, breach of fiduciary duty, negligent and intentional infliction of emotional distress, theft/conversion, misrepresentation, violation of Utah's Pattern of Unlawful Activity Act, gross negligence, breach of faith and loss of consortium.
They are represented by Wesley Hutchins of West Jordan.